Stingy defense paces Liberty in 16-0 win over Presbyterian

libertyLiberty held Presbyterian to 175 total offensive yards, the fewest the Flames have allowed since 2014, en route to a 16-0 win, Saturday afternoon, at Bailey Memorial Stadium.

The victory pushes Liberty’s win streak to five games, it’s longest since 2013, and moves the Flames to 6-3 overall and 4-0 in Big South play.

Liberty’s best start in Big South play since 2011 allows the Flames to play for the program’s eighth Big South title, next Saturday, when the Flames host Charleston Southern at home.

The Flames have had some memorable performances in Clinton, S.C., in five seasons under Flames Head Coach Turner Gill. In 2012, Liberty set a program record with 692 total offensive yards against the Blue Hose. Today, Liberty posted its first shutout since a 34-0 blanking of Gardner-Webb on Oct. 25, 2014, and the fourth in five seasons under Gill.

The Flames outgained the Blue Hose, 315 to 175, using two rushing touchdowns and Reigning Big South Special Teams Player of the Week freshman Alex Probert’s conference leading 13th field goal to secure the road victory.

Liberty did most of its damage on the ground, rushing for 264 yards and averaging 4.9 yards per carry. The Flames have now rushed for 907 yards and nine touchdowns during their last four games.

The Flames’ defense benefited from forcing four turnovers on the day, two interceptions and two fumbles. Liberty entered the game ranked No. 15 in the country in turnovers gained and now has 22 on the year.

For the second time this season, the Flames had a pair of running backs break the 100-yard rushing threshold. Carrington Mosley posted his first career 100-yard game, rushing 17 times for 137 yards.

Todd Macon recorded his third career 100-yard game, carrying the ball 20 times for exactly 100 yards and his team-leading seventh touchdown. Frankie Hickson followed with 12 rushing attempts for 36 yards and his fourth rushing touchdown in 2016.

Stephen Calvert was limited on the day, completing 5-of-15 pass attempts for 51 yards. Dante Shells was Liberty’s top receiver with two receptions for 25 yards.

Ben Cheek finished the game 15-of-26 for the Blue Hose, accounting for 122 of his team’s 175 yards through the air. DaShawn Davis led the host team with six receptions for 75 yards.

Presbyterian was limited to 53 yards rushing with Darrell Bridges leading the way with 18 carries for 37 yards.

Nick Newman and Solomon McGinty tied for team-high tackling honors on the afternoon. Each recorded seven stops. The leading tackler in the game was Presbyterian’s Nick Moss, who finished game with 11 stops.

The Flames created their 19th turnover of the season on the game’s third play, a fumble recovered by Alpha Jalloh, but were unable to crack the scoreboard until later in the first.

After the two teams traded possessions, Liberty put together a 10-play, 45-yard scoring drive, consisting of eight rushing plays and two passes. The second pass was a 10-yard strike from Calvert to Farrow on third down.

The following play, Macon bounced out to the right side of the field and scored from eight yards out. Probert missed the extra point attempt, his second misfire of the season, leaving the score at 6-0 Liberty at the 3:56 mark.

The home team looked like it might trim Liberty’s lead during the waning minutes of the second quarter when Brett Norton was called upon to attempt a 20-yard field goal with 3:04 left in the half. However, the sophomore’s kick was blocked by Liberty’s Newman, keeping the home team off the scoreboard.

The blocked kick sparked Liberty’s offense, helping the Flames take a 9-0 lead into the break at halftime. The Flames moved the ball 75 yards on six plays, setting up a 22-yard field goal by Probert with 45 seconds left in the second quarter.

Calvert tried to widen Liberty’s lead midway through the third quarter with a deep pass downfield to tight end Kendall Couamin. But the freshman’s pass found the senior in double coverage and was intercepted in the end zone, negating the lone scoring chance for either team during the third 15-minute period.

Unlike the early part of the first quarter, the Flames made their third turnover caused of the game count, upping Liberty’s lead to 16-0 with 4:41 left in the game.

Dexter Robbins, fresh off a game-saving blocked field goal in overtime last week against Gardner-Webb, stepped in front of a Cheek pass over the middle of the field at the Presbyterian 34.

The Flames kept the ball on the ground for the next seven plays, capping a 34-yard drive with a one-yard touchdown run by Hickson with under five minutes remaining.

Liberty’s defense sealed the shutout when Newman recorded his second career interception with 2:42 left in the contest.

The Flames return home next weekend to host Big South defending champion Charleston Southern (5-3, 2-1 BSC) on Military Appreciation game at Williams Stadium.

Win a win over the Buccaneers, Liberty would wrap its eighth Big South title and secure the league’s automatic bid to the 2016 NCAA FCS Playoffs. Saturday’s kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.

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